Friday, 31 May 2013

Goals and how to motivate yourself

(Please note ... this blog was originally published on my main blog in March 2013. This is it's new home)

Recently had a few indie authors get in touch with me and one thing I've found that many people have in common when they start out is issues with movitivation.

Just as a disclaimer - I'm a lazy bastard. Doing something hardcore like getting up at 5 a.m. in mid-winter to write for two hours before work just isn't going to happen. In general I'd much rather surf Facebook or mess around on YouTube than be productive. I'd been scrapping around for years writing a book here and a book there without ever really getting anywhere.

On the 24th of January 2012, I entered the world of self-publishing for the first time with a short story called Forever My Baby. I was five days shy of my 33rd birthday, and after fifteen years of collecting rejection slips from agents and publishers I decided to give it a crack on my own.

I had seven novels and roughly eighty short stories already written, in various states of repair. I knew that I couldn't just rely on the backlist, though, I would need new material.

When I first pressed that self-publish button I was hellbent on eventually making writing my career. I knew I had the talent - I'd sold thirty odd short stories to magazines, two of them professionally, and Tube Riders came within a whisker of getting an agent - but whether I would have the dedication and the business sense to get anywhere on my own was another thing entirely.

Prior to self-publishing, my writing motivation was at an all time low. In 2011, for example, I wrote perhaps 20,000 words. That's nothing.

When I first started self-publishing, I concentrated on getting out the backlist, a few short stories, a collection, and then Tube Riders in March. The rest of the time I spent doing things like playing around on Twitter and emailing bloggers. In June I decided I needed new material.

Since June 20th last year I've written 325,000 words. It would probably be a lot more but for the last month I've done nothing but editing.

That's the equivalent of three full novels, or roughly a novel every three months. There are guys I know writing a novel a month but those are God-like levels. Three to four novels a year is a pretty solid output for an average mortal like me.

How?

It's an easy answer - goals.

I have dozens of little goals, and each one of them is important, but I don't want to talk about me, I want to talk about what you - the starting out writer - can do to motivate yourself.

The first and foremost rule of setting goals is to keep them attainable. Set yourself stupidly difficult goals and you'll spend all your time frustrated.

As example of a bad goal - last November I was feeling all confident so I took on NaNoWriMo. I took it a step further - I tried to write a 50,000 novel from scratch while carrying on with all my other stuff.

It was a bridge too far.

I started out okay, but a week in my computer broke. I lost 10,000 words, most of them on my NaNo. I started out again, but it just wasn't to be - I had another computer crash and lost another 5000. You guessed it - that was my NaNo. I tried a third time but my motivation was done and I quit. And all the while I was wasting time trying to force myself to rewrite a novel that I was force-writing in the first place, I lost ground on all my other stuff.

Big mistake.

Keep your goals simple.

Wordcounts

Wordcounts are the easy one. If you struggle to write 1000 words a day but can quite easily get 600 - 700, set your goal at 500. That way, you'll easily attain it and you'll feel good about yourself. If you set your goal at 1500 and you only make 1200, even though you've actually achieved more, you'll feel like you haven't.

Make a big spreadsheet, and every time you start a new work in progress, put it in and keep a daily tally of the wordcount. Don't limit it to daily, either - have monthly and yearly targets plus targets for each work. If you're like me and usually have five or six different WIPs on the go all at the same time, you'll find that you'll always be within 100 - 200 words of one target or another. Keep pushing to get that extra 100 - 200 words down and then you'll see another little target to aim for. I can easily get 2000 words down by aiming for these little targets.

One other little thing that I cannot say often enough - if you can't touch type, LEARN. It's the one single most useful skill I have. People tell me my writing has really good rhythm - that's because I can type it almost as quickly as I think it. If you're plodding away with two fingers doing ten words a minute - get a program off the internet or take a course. You won't regret it. It takes time to learn - after doing a course in my final year of school - I spent six months with a tea towel draped over my hands while forcing myself to use the correct fingers for each key. It was brutally frustrating, but so, so worth it. So, one more time LEARN TO TOUCH TYPE. Don't um and ah, and mutter about how difficult it is when you start out ... JUST DO IT. Trust me on this ...

Publications

Once you've started publishing, set publication goals. Remember to keep them realistic. For example, in 2012 I published 21 items - two novels, one short story collection, two novellas, one novel split into three and a bunch of short stories. My aim for the end of 2013 is to hit 40. I just published item number 25 and I have nos 26, 27, 28 and 29 in the can and ready to go. It'll be a push but with a handful of short stories I should make it. My target for 2014 will probably be 50 - by the end of next year I'll have a lot less backlog and will be relying mostly on new material. Remember - as a self-published author you're not just relying on only new material - you can bump up your publication count by creating packages or bundles. For example, if you have ten short stories, there's no reason why you can't have two collections of five, an omnibus of ten, and then each story individually, all at different prices. Remember, this is business. I don't agree with ripping people off but what you're doing is offering purchasing options while increasing your visibility. Buyers choose whether they want to buy something. As long as your description accurately matches what they're buying, you're not doing anything wrong.

My goals are pretty high but I consider them attainable. Remember to set your own - for example a short story every two months, or a novel every six months, or one novel and two short stories a year. Keep your targets within what you are confident you can achieve.

Marketing Goals

You can pick and choose what these are, depending on your preferred forms of marketing. If you use Facebook a lot, then you can aim at building up your number of likes. I'm currently aiming for 500, mostly by using Facebook ads to target possible readers and then engaging the people that join up as much as possible to make them stay ... for a comprehensive breakdown on how to use Facebook for marketing, study and memorise every word of this excellent post by a good writing buddy of mine, John Daulton. That is the blueprint to using Facebook as an author.

Twitter, also is another one that authors often use. I'm not a big fan, but setting follower goals or tweet goals can be useful. Personally I've had little success through Twitter, mainly because I hate it, but some people swear by it.

Goodreads is my favorite place on the net for marketing. There are tons of things you can do there - set up groups, run events, giveaways, all sorts. One stat I keep an eye on and try to improve is how many users have my books on their to-read shelves. You can get on loads of these by doing paperback giveaways. My target for 2013 is 2000 unique users. Currently it's 1082, but I should make it if I do perhaps one giveaway - of a single book at a time - every two months. This is one of those things that you won't see an immediate sales bump for, but it's part of visibility and its that whole "speculate to accumulate" thing. I currently put about 80% of what I earn into marketing and book stuff - covers, formatting, editing, proofreading.

When you start out, it's best to concentrate most on writing rather than marketing. This post by the very successful thriller writer Robert J. Crane basically sums up why. In short, if you write a book that someone likes, you want them to have a bunch of others to choose from. It's possible to blow up and be a bestseller with one book, but it's rare. You're far more likely to have steady success across ten books.

Sales Targets

My personal favorite - this is where you get the cash. In theory ... Again, be realistic. If you have just one short story out you might be lucky to make a sale a month. I've been there. I have shorts out now that haven't sold a single copy in six months.

As always, keep them reasonable. Of course, when I published Tube Riders last March, I was hoping to have sold 10,000 copies by the end of the year. It didn't happen - but that doesn't mean it won't sell 10,000 this year, or next year. However, putting your money on a sudden boom like this is unrealistic. They happen, but not often. It's far better to look at your overall trends and aim for a gradual improvement as you put your books out.  By August or September last year my target was a sale a day - and it was a struggle, but they gradually came (mostly from hammering Amazon free promos). This year my aim is 100 sales/month. I've managed it four months in a row, mostly through endless free and bargain book promos, some of which are costing me money. Again, speculate to accumulate. If you're a real writer you're in this for the long haul - building up repeat customers over time is of paramount importance.

Long Term Goals

So, what do you want from all this? Do you want to be a pro, or do you just want to make a bit of cash for a year or two? It's all up to you, of course, but again here's another opportunity to set targets.

Mine, of course, are huge. I started this just shy of my 33rd birthday and my goal is to be doing this for a living by the time I'm 40. Seven years. In the interim, my three year goal is to be making $500 a month. I'm currently making about $200, although most of that is going back into the business. I'm not getting rich yet. Still, got to start somewhere ...

As always, look at what you think you can achieve, and keep your goals realistic. I know writers who've been able to quit their day jobs within six months, but out of half a million or so self-published writers that really is like being struck by lightning. It might happen, but it probably won't, so plan according to what you think is attainable.

Well, my hands are getting tired from typing all this, and I apologise for not being one of those bloggers who breaks up blocks of endless text with cute pictures - I could put some book covers in but I think you've seen all those already ... I hope some of you out there find this useful. Feel free to add any comments or link to this blog anywhere you like and if I think of any more information to add I'll update the blog as I get to it. Most of it is pretty basic stuff but you're building your career from the ground up after all ...

Chris Ward
June 1st 2013
(originally published March 23rd 2013)

Friday, 17 May 2013

Nifty little tool for self-published writers

I found this interesting little website mentioned on a forum I frequent the other day. Basically, if you put the ASIN of your book into the search box it will give you a kind of floating spider web diagram showing which books are linked from your book's Also Bought list on Amazon and which books link to you.

If you put your cursor over your book it'll give you a bunch of orange lines. These go to the books from where your book can be found. There's also a box on the left in which you can rank the books in the spidergraph(?) related to your book in terms of things such as ranking and price.

For interest's sake, I put in my book Tube Riders. Just for clarification, I'm writing this on May 18th, and so far this month I've sold just two copies.

There are 84 connected books. Tube Riders ranks lowest in both ranking and popularity. It's second from the top in terms of diversity, whatever that means, and there are no orange arrows pointing inwards, which means a few books are visible from my book, but my book has no visibility from elsewhere.

However, when I put in my current bestseller, Five Tales of Horror, which is selling 2-3 copies a day and has sold nearly 200 since I released it in March, there are a lot of orange arrows pointing in as well as out, meaning it is being seen on a lot of Also Bought lists. From looking at Amazon I can see that many of those books are ranking pretty well, inside the top 5000 or so. Basically, my book is hanging on the coattails of these books, whereas my book Tube Riders isn't hanging anywhere, and the books its connected to are all other unknowns that aren't selling well either.

What does this tell me? In short, that I don't have much visibility. The obvious answer is to sell more books, something that's of course easier said than done. However the right kind of visibility is important. For example, getting on the Also Bought lists of a bunch of unknown books is pretty much a waste of time. This is what happens when you do free promos, because people download at random and free promos are increasingly becoming the playground of the desperate or not very good writer. Bargain books are the way forward, don't you know! Although if you look carefully, you'll often find a lot of my short stories on promo as I don't have a lot else to do with them...

Another thing I noticed from playing around with this site, is that none of my books are linking to each other. When I put in Dan Brown's new book, the biggest group of Also Boughts linking to and from his new book were all his other books. It's become kind of a sport among unknown writers to dump on Dan Brown's writing skills (for what it's worth I've read Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons and thought they were both pretty good, although the films were hit and miss), but he clearly has fans. People who bought his other books are all over his new book regardless of what the snobish non-selling indie community thinks of it. Looking at my own graphs proves that I don't really have fans, just people who see my books and pick them up because they're cheap or free or whatever. Hopefully when I put out the next book in the Tube Riders series I'll start to see a few more backwards and forwards arrows.

And talking of which, I'd better get back to editing it. So if you've got some books out, have a little play around with this tool. It's kind of interesting.

Chris Ward
18th May 2013


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Submitting to Magazines - How and Why to do it

(Please note, this is another post originally posted on my writer's blog at A Million Miles from Anywhere. This will be it's new home)


During my self-publishing adventures I’ve come across a lot of people who are trying to get a slice of the ebook pie through publishing only novellas and short stories. While these can be just as difficult to write, the shorter form is often seen as being less of a time investment than full novels, simultaneously giving the author more visibility. They are also popular with people who don’t have the time to write regularly or for long periods, or who don’t enjoy spending two years on each novel.

A lot of people I’ve come across are publishing short stories and novellas on Amazon at a furious pace, but is it the only option? For every Wool (which was originally a novella) there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of short pieces selling a handful of copies a month or less.

Disillusioned? Maybe, but unlike novels, which are notoriously hard to sell, short fiction can be a lot easier to market, and although you might not become a superstar, there are still gains to be made.

Prior to self-publishing, I spent fourteen years submitting and occasionally selling stories to magazines. Just to prove it, here are a few of my publications –

Ms Ito’s Bird in Weird Tales 352
Ovid’s Legacy in Flagship (the pic on the front is from my story!)
Going Underground in Noctober 
Feeding the Gulls in Written Word (pretty salty about this one because I never got paid, but it was like $15, so whatever)

 My claim to fame!

Self-publishing a short story can occasionally be profitable, but more often than not it’ll sit there in cyberspace doing nothing. Also, you can never be quite sure whether it’ll take off or not. So much depends on the title and cover. For example, after my rights returned to me from Weird Tales (after a year, I think, although magazines will buy various rights from 6 months to 2 years), I published Ms Ito’s Bird on Amazon as an individual short story. In roughly ten months it’s sold … wait for it … ONE copy.

There it is about halfway down ... see it? And the third picture down
is from my story! :-)

When I sold it to Weird Tales I made roughly $160. At the time that was more than half of my entire revenue from eight years of trying to sell short stories. And that was just the money - nothing else I have ever achieved in writing EVER has given me the confidence in my work that that sale did. Conan the Barbarian was serialized in that magazine. Getting in Weird Tales is big time.

Getting back to the cold hard cash line, there’s money to be made from selling short stories if you’re good, but here’s a few common pitfalls to avoid.

Noob Mistake #1 – Posting your story publicly and then expecting to sell it later

I see a lot of authors posting works in progress on their blogs, Facebook pages, Goodreads, forums, etc. If you ever have plans of selling that story to a magazine, this is a really bad idea. You can get away with it on a private forum or in a crit circle that requires membership to access, but anywhere it’s available publicly through a search engine it counts as being published and therefore you’re relinquishing your first world publication rights, which is what magazines will buy. Pull it down before you submit it and make sure it's got no cyber footprint. If it can still be available online it is effectively worthless. You might be able to get $5 here or there as a reprint, but any chance of selling it to Fantasy & Science Fiction for $600 is gone right away.

And trust me, the big magazines will check. Google is a powerful thing. And they won’t just search by title (otherwise you could just change it) but by chunks of text.

Noob Mistake #2 – Ignoring the guidelines

“Send us clean sci-fi with no sex or violence towards animals.” So, you send them a horror involving a serial killer who likes to have sex with elephants, just in case they want to make an exception … nope. Here comes another rejection letter. Guidelines are there for a reason. Perhaps if you’re Stephen King you could get away with it, but otherwise forget it. Trust me on this, I’ve broken them all and regretted it. The exact same goes for deadlines. If a magazine gives you a date to submit by, or says on its guidelines page that its currently closed to submissions, then it means it. Don’t waste your time by submitting anyway.

Noob Mistake #3 – Submitting to more than one magazine at once

Check in the guidelines to see if a magazine is okay with “simultaneous submissions”. This means they’re happy for you to submit elsewhere at the same time. If they don’t like this (and the guidelines will say), then don’t do it anyway. Nothing could be more awkward than having two magazines accept your story and you having to tell one of them you’ve changed your mind because its been accepted elsewhere. This kind of thing doesn’t make you any friends. Particularly at the top magazines, a lot of the editors generally tend to know each other. Of course, if a magazine is okay with sim-subs, then go for it. Be courteous though and notify the other magazines if one accepts you.

Noob Mistake #4 – Responding to Rejections

Don’t do it. Ever. Whether it’s a form letter, an “I’d rather kill myself than read any more of your crap” type letter or a “wow this was awesome but not quite awesome enough” type, just don’t respond. The editor really doesn’t care what you think. Nine times out of ten you’ll get a form rejection, but if you get comments then read them, apply them if necessary, and move on. Don’t bother to thank the editor unless they write like a page of notes (unlikely). If they gave you comments then they probably gave them to twenty other writers, and if they have to open twenty “thanks for your comments, love, random unknown” emails every day they’ll quickly stop writing them and start sending form rejections instead.

If you get an acceptance, however, then of course you should respond.

Where to submit?

You could search in Google or Yahoo, but its far easier to just use a listing site. For the most part I write speculative fiction (fantasy/horror/sci-fi) so my primary resource is Ralan. Another good once, which includes mainstream magazines, is Duotrope Digest (although I notice you now how to pay a subscription - it was free back when I was using it). There might be others, but these are pretty much the only two I used.

Now, it’s just a matter of opinion, but for anyone planning a career in writing I personally think it’s a waste of time to submit to magazines offering only exposure/token or minimal pay, basically anything less than 3c/word. I spent years submitting to and being published by tiny little magazines, and I used to get really excited, even though only six people were every going to read it, the editor, me, and the four other writers included in the same issue. I had this grand idea that I would sell novels if I only got enough exposure in small press magazines.

There are a number of flaws in this plan:

1.      No one reads small press magazines except the editor, the included writers and (if you’re lucky) your family and friends.
2.      They’re not very prestigious.
3.      Most of them are run by other unknown writers so their judgment on what is good is negligible at best.
4.      They tend to fold/disappear without warning, sometimes shutting down the website completely, so that there’s no record of you ever having been published there.
5.      They don’t always pay you or send contributors copies, regardless of what they might promise. In short, they're incredibly unreliable.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Some small press magazines are well run, always respond personally and actually pay you. They're very much in the minority though, in my experience.


However getting into a pro/semi-pro magazine is a different. For starters, the money is actually decent if you’re prolific and sell frequently. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction pays 6 – 9c/word. On a 5000 word story that’s $450, which would pay my rent for a month, and they accept stories up to 25,000 words. At 5c/word that's $1250, also known as decent pay. Plus, people actually read big magazines and they have prestige. The year I was in Weird Tales it won a Hugo Award for best semi-pro magazine. In the genre fiction world that’s a big deal. I wasn’t even on the cover of the magazine I was published in but Ann Vandermeer, the editor at the time, sent me a photo of the trophy and a note of thanks for being in the magazine. That was almost as awesome as being published in it.

Getting in a small press magazine might count as a “publishing credit”, and for years I collected them with pride, but getting in a major magazine can make you famous.

How likely is it that you’ll be accepted?

That depends on how good you are and how well your fiction fits with what the editor wants. You need to write well. If you suck, you probably won’t sell anything, which is why I’d suggest only submitting your best stuff and keeping the rest for self-published anthologies, but to be honest, if you suck you won't sell anything if you self-publish either and would be better off spending your time practicing (see my previous post about how to sell ebooks). Also, with the big magazines they’re trying to make money. If you’re a bestselling writer they’re far more likely to accept you than if you’re an unknown. However, they all frequently publish new writers because part of what they’re about is finding new talent, but your work needs to be outstanding. For that reason it also helps to keep it shorter. If you’re an unknown its way easier to sell something of 2000 words than something of 10,000, because they can slot you neatly into the back third of the magazine while saving the bulk for big name writers. In general I keep my stories in the 2000 to 6000 range. In general, though, even if you’re good, expect a lot of rejection. My average overall was about 10 rejections per acceptance, but that was for small presses. For major magazines it was more like 150-1. Those odds might not be for everyone, you have to make the decision based on how good you think your stories are.

Also, it’s worth remembering that everything the magazine selects is the editor’s personal choice. You might have written an outstanding story but it wasn’t quite what the editor wanted, so you get a form rejection. Don’t give up. Have confidence in your work and submit it somewhere else.

Is submitting to magazines a good idea for you?

That depends on what kind of person you are. For starters, you need to patient. While some magazines will get back to you within a couple of days, others will take months. Even now I get the odd rejection letter/email show up and it’s been more than a year since I submitted anything. And even if it is accepted, it might be a year before it's published. That's just the way the industry works; its very different to being published by a traditional publisher. In general, the bigger the magazine the longer you'll wait for publication. However, the bigger the magazine, the less likely they'll fold suddenly. I had no less than three pro sales never show up because the magazine - usually some ambitious small press - folded before the first issue ever reached print. THAT is frustrating ...

Also, be aware of the costs. While most magazines now allow email submissions, a few of the big ones still require paper copies. This can get expensive if you submit a lot, so make sure you think you’ve got a real chance before doing it.

It helps if you have a lot of stories. Waiting on one story can be frustrating. At one point I had over 40 stories out for submission at the same time so they were all coming and going. Keep all the info in a spreadsheet. Unless a magazine says otherwise, give them about six months. If they don’t get back to you, check they received your submission and also check they haven’t folded. This was something I found frustrating with the small presses – I’d wait several months for a response, go to the website and find the magazine had shut down. Sometimes they don’t even say why, they just go inactive. This is why Ralan is such a good site – it regularly checks for inactivity and a site that isn’t responding is moved to the Dead Markets page.

So, to summarize (because I’ve prattled on for almost 2000 words on this …!), if you’re consistently producing high quality short stories you could consider it as an option. Be aware of what it takes, though. You’ll go through a lot of frustration, but there is money to be made and prestige to be gained if you’re successful. And if you do sell something, you'll get your rights back within a year or so anyway so you can still self-publish it in the future.

As always, comments/questions are welcome.

Chris Ward
May 16th 2013
(previously published April 5th 2013)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Some things I think about when I revise


I'm currently two thirds of the way through the first revision of my next novel, Tube Riders: Exile. The first revision is generally the hardest, because that's where you come up against all the plot holes and stuff. While revising, I mostly concentrate on getting the writing tight as well as a smooth rhythm and the correct tone. However, while I do it I make a list of all the things I need to go back and look at later.

Of course, for those of you who've read Tube Riders, you'll know that it is a masterpiece of dystopian fiction :-). However, it had issues. Here are some of the issues I've made a note of during my revision of Exile, just so you can see that in first draft form my books are a long way from the wonderfully polished articles that are available for sale.

(of course all names have been edited out to avoid spoilers)

Change the (character)'s weapon?
(name)/other characters regard (character) as “it” but from (character)'s POV they become “he”.
Check heaven/god/hell etc for capital usage
Where did (name)'s contact lenses go?
Where did (name)/(name)'s guns go between watching the (character) and coming out of the tunnel?
French police titles
God damn or goddamn
Try to edit out ‘for a moment/second’
(name)'s burn is on the right
(name)'s eyes are blue
Try to edit out ‘just a few metres’
(name) is a British (thing) so why does he need a French translation?
Check rapid/rabid

Some interesting stuff in there. Some of it is really basic typo stuff, like rapid/rabid. It's very easy to get words like these mixed up, which is where proofreaders come in. Another I always check for is scarring/scaring, and one my proofreader found was lopped/loped. Make a long list of these as you find them and find/replace to get rid of them.

Things like "French police titles" are a worldbuilding detail. Most of Exile is set in France, so I want it to be as authentic as possible. I have been there a number of times, but I know nothing about the French police (thank God) or military.

The notes about "blue eyes" and "burns" are consistency details. As a general rule I don't go into a great deal of death over character detail. Some writers do, but I find it incredibly boring and for the most part irrelevant. Same with clothing. However, when you do use it, you have to make sure it's the same throughout. If a character has a birthmark on the right side of their face, it better not be on the left five chapters later. Unless it's a fake one, of course ...

There are a couple of notes on overused phrases. For me these are usually time/distance - "For a moment", "a few metres away", etc. If you repeat them too often they become boring so I always try to edit some of them out.

The note about a French translation is a character inconsistency. For example, when you have French characters, there has to be a reason why they can speak in English. Of course they can learn, but why did they learn? You don't have to write it all out in detail, but it should be obvious or implied by the plot.

"God damn vs goddamn" and the note on capitalization of "heaven/hell" etc, is a style thing. I see both used, and the reason I've highlighted these notes are because they need to be consistent, one way or the other. You can vary them if used in speech by two or more different characters, but not if they're used in the general narrative. Pick one, stick to it.

The notes about guns and contact lenses are simple plot holes. In one chapter a character is holding a gun, then two chapters later the gun has disappeared. Where did it go? These are all things you need to pick up and fix. My books are full of things like this because I don't write a detailed outline, just a few notes on each chapter. However, within two or three revisions they're usually fixed.

Anyway, that's just a little insight into my writing process. And on that note, I'd better get back to it ...

Chris Ward
May 14th 2013

Saturday, 4 May 2013

An example of paragraph revision


For today’s “class” I thought I would give you a little example of the kind of things I do when I revise. Generally, when I write a first draft, while I do write a complete story I often don’t worry so much about how I write something as just getting the story down. When I come to revise it’s rare that I don’t change at least one or two words in every paragraph.

Tonight I was doing some first draft revising of Exile and made quite a few changes to one particular paragraph and thought I’d give you a few pointers as to why. (I also picked this paragraph because it doesn’t have any spoilers!).

Here’s the original paragraph –

He had never more strongly felt the urge to turn and walk away than he did now. The Tube Riders had been forced on the run by the DCA and the Huntsmen but none of it had been a personal choice, they had done only what they needed to do to survive. What he wanted to do now was forget everything, find his brother and keep running, keep heading south, heading away from all this. Europe was a big place, one that by all accounts was at peace, so if they could avoid the French army long enough they would surely find somewhere to shelter them, away from the Huntsmen’s reach.
(111 words)

And here’s what I did to it –

The urge to turn and walk away was as strong as it had ever been. The Tube Riders had been forced to go on the run by the Department of Civil Affairs, and they had done only what they needed to do to survive. What he wanted to do now was forget everything, find his brother and keep running, keep heading south. Europe was a big place, and one that Lionel had told him was at peace, so if they could avoid the French army long enough they would surely find somewhere to hide, away from the Huntsmen’s reach.
(99 words)

For a start it’s a little shorter. This wasn’t an intention, but that I’ve dropped the equivalent of a sentence while making it more concise will help it to flow better.

Now, to focus on some specific lines –

He had never more strongly felt the urge to turn and walk away than he did now.

become
The urge to turn and walk away was as strong as it had ever been.

mainly because I thought “more strongly” was clunky and ugly, plus I wanted “the urge to turn and walk away” to come at the beginning as the subject. While this is a passive structure, I don’t really care at this point. Chances are in the second revision it’ll end up as “Paul felt the urge to turn and walk away”, but one thing at a time. For now it’ll do.

The Tube Riders had been forced on the run by the DCA and the Huntsmen but none of it had been a personal choice, they had done only what they needed to do to survive.


became

The Tube Riders had been forced to go on the run by the Department of Civil Affairs, and they had done only what they needed to do to survive.


For a number of reasons. I changed “on the run” to “go on the run” to make it clearer, but this again may revert in the next draft. I haven’t decided yet. I changed the DCA from the abbreviation because I wanted it to have more impact than just the three letters, while I cut “and the Huntsmen” because it was inaccurate – in book one the Huntsmen are sent after the Tube Riders after they go on the run, they aren’t a cause. And I cut “but none of it …” because it was kind of obvious anyway and unnecessary here.

In the last section,

What he wanted to do now was forget everything, find his brother and keep running, keep heading south, heading away from all this. Europe was a big place, one that by all accounts was at peace, so if they could avoid the French army long enough they would surely find somewhere to shelter them, away from the Huntsmen’s reach.

I made a few more changes, to make it like this –

What he wanted to do now was forget everything, find his brother and keep running, keep heading south. Europe was a big place, and one that Lionel had told him was at peace, so if they could avoid the French army long enough they would surely find somewhere to hide, away from the Huntsmen’s reach.

I cut “heading away from all this”, because I felt it was repetitive, and didn’t add anything new to the previous clause. I changed “by all accounts” to “Lionel had told him” because I felt that “by all accounts” was clich├ęd and vague. (Lionel, btw, is a relatively minor character in part 2).

So there you have it. The second paragraph is far from perfect but it's a big improvement on the first. This is just an example of the kind of things I think about when I revise. My books usually get two to three revisions before I start thinking about sending them to other people. Some paragraphs will survive intact, others are completely overhauled, and some are cut completely.

I hope you find this information useful. As always, any comments are welcome.

Chris Ward

May 4th 2013